One does not have to be long in the Munich area to learn that there are literally hundreds of special traditions taking place all year round, so when a friend of mine in Taufkirchen invited me to see preparations for the new maypole being constructed, I had a feeling it might be an interesting little excursion.
Maypoles of course take pride of place in Bavarian villages, but I learned that they need to be replaced every five years or so. Turning off at a crude sign for the 'Guard's Hut', we came to the following little construction.
This is the 2015 maypole for Taufkirchen, in its temporary resting place, where it will be guarded from thieves, until it is erected for the May Day celebrations.
At 36 metres long and weighing an impressive five tons, I was not sure who would be trying to steal the future pole.
That was my first lesson. There is a tradition of neighbouring villages stealing the maypole of other villages, which is then available for collection after the stolen community comes up with a ranson, usually a large amount of beer. The most spectacular maypole theft took place in 2004, when a Burschverein (youth association) from a neighbouring locality managed to steal the maypole from the top of Zugspitze by helicopter, an amazing feat, and they were well rewarded in beer ransom for their daring effort.
In order to prevent the pole being stolen, each Burschverein has its own guard hut, where eagle-eyed guards comb the territory to seek out potential thieves. My advice to anyone looking to steal the Taufkirchen maypole? 16:00 is a good time, as the guards seem to be a little more relaxed.
We popped into the hut for a beer and were given a VERY warm welcome from Julius Ammereller from Burschen TV, which is a delightful little Youtube channel, covering proceedings in an informative and funny manner. Here for example is the report on their maypole selection:
And this one on the opening of the Guard Hut and a rather bizarre and fun game called Nageln (or Nailing), which Julius insisted we play.
The rules are simple. You need a tree trunk, one nail per player and a special hammer. After Julius tapped the nails into the trunk, we were invited to hammer the nail into the trunk, with the winner being the person who managed to make the nail disappear into the trunk completely. Last man has to buy a round of Schnapps.
A simple enough task if the hammer had been a normal hammer, but it is in fact hollow on the head, so precision on hitting the nail with the edge of the head is required.
It is not easy! Etiquette dictates that is you have a female player, you should sometimes try and hit her nail, but if you have no luck hitting your own, this is not much use, apart from making you look gallant.
Of course, the more you drink, the better you get, or perhaps the hollow centre gets smaller.
It is of course very competitive, and there are various sizes of nails and a range of hammers to make the challenge all the harder.
And once the game is over, the last man has to fork out one euro per shot. These are then banged a few times on the trunk, opened, and as Julius so expertly demonstrates, disposed over rather quickly.
All in all a very fun visit, and I am sure that Burschen TV will be worth monitoring throughout the year. Check it out here.
Thanks guys, and I recommend you increase your security...